I’ve always watched the Super Bowl more for the ads than the actual football game, but this past Sunday, this was especially true. I wasn’t even in the room when that last play was made… so yeah, this year was definitely all about the ads. And this year, the ads were definitely different. Babes in bikinis and slapstick humor were traded in favor of epic, emotional spots that carried a general feeling of seriousness. Somber, even.
Below, my Super Bowl Superlatives. This is in no way a comprehensive list (61 spots! so much to critique), but the ads that came to mind immediately when I started to write:
Best Use Of An Old Ad: Always #LikeAGirl
Several brands, including Always, aired old creative during the Super Bowl. #LikeAGirl was first released online in June 2014, and to date has almost 55 million views. With a successful viral hit that struck a social chord, why reinvent the wheel? Rather than start over at square one just for the sake of creating something new for the Super Bowl, Always repurposed a powerful ad that had proven successful at resonating with audiences. Kudos to the brand for bringing the movement to 114 million viewers.
Best Breaking Bad Appearance: Weight Watchers All You Can Eat
Who knew Breaking Bad was still relevant? Both Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston made cameos during the Super Bowl (although we only heard Paul’s voice). I thought Esurance was “sorta reaching” with Bryan Cranston as “sorta Greg” the pharmacist, but Aaron Paul’s voiceover for Weight Watcher’s “All You Can Eat” ad that made a not so subtle reference to food as a drug was genius. Although as much as I loved the Weight Watchers ad, I have to wonder if it was too brutally honest; true, people always say they can stop whenever they want– it’s the other people that have the problem. But being confronted by your own excuses? It’s a hard pill to swallow.
Most Effective Pandering: Budweiser Lost Dog
Budweiser won us (women) over last year with a heart warming story about a man and his puppy, and the brand wasn’t about to change things up this year having cracked the way to our rom-com obsessed hearts. This year’s spot felt like it was bordering on formulaic (which GoDaddy cracked), but it definitely worked. Score one for reaching midwestern moms, minus one for creativity.
Most Depressing: Nationwide Make Safe Happen
What. A. Buzzkill. Not much to say here except I want to wrap my future kids in bubble wrap. And what a horrible judgement call on context– the Super Bowl was not the venue for this ad. Although I’m not sure what would be an appropriate context… especially since Nationwide Insurance can’t protect a child from accidents, only help the parents pay for the health care costs…
Most Impactful: No More
I put this superlative next to the winner for ‘most depressing’ to contrast the two spots. Both were serious, somber, and alarming, but unlike Nationwide’s “Boy” commercial, the Super Bowl was the perfect venue for No More given the controversy surrounding domestic violence in the NFL. After I watched this ad, I felt like the breath had been knocked out of me. The use of just the audio of the 911 call was so powerful and chilling, and making the decision to not show the attacker or victim made the ad feel more universal– we didn’t see race or socioeconomic status, just heard a woman in dire need of help.
Best Use of Archival Footage: BMW “New Fangled Idea”
While BBDO won the first Super Clio for it’s Snicker’s Brady Bunch spot, I’m not sure anyone outside of the ad world realized the tremendous effort that went into creating it. Shrug. I liked how BMW used the old Today Show footage to make the tech in their new electric i8 relatable. By comparing the car to something that used to seem incomprehensible but is now ubiquitous, BMW positioned the i8 as the next big thing.
Most Groan Worthy, But Memorable Spot: Fiat Blue Pill
My feelings are mixed about this ad. On one hand, the Viagra metaphor worked and left nothing to the imagination. On the other hand, Fiat used a boner joke to promote the new 500X. Groan worthy, but memorable, and a totally different feel than the other car commercials of the night. But… #yourcarhasaboner.
Best Nyan Cat Impression: Katy Perry.